Tuesday night at Kung Fu Necktie the crew from independent hip-hop label Humble Beast put on quite a show. As headliner Propaganda put it, Christian artists have to come correct when they go out and play real venues outside of church. To determine whether or not that was the case, I brought some nonreligious hip-hop heads with me. My friend Bessam commented, “The only difference between this and Mos Def is the tendency to sermonize a bit more between tracks.” The sermonizing here, however, was more in line with what you would hear at any conscious hip-hop show. Propaganda emphasized the need to really spend time in the community to have an impact, mentioning some work he was doing at Temple University before the show with a professor that was in the audience, as well as discussing the situation in Ferguson, education, and other current events. Before he even got to the stage, Humble Beast’s own DJ Efechto had been warming up the crowd with boom-bap instrumentals woven together with Traktor and his VCI controller. Efechto is quite a producer in his own right, with an instrumental album you can download [here].
Opening sets by Bronx indie-pop artist Marz Ferrer and Las Vegas MC JGivens seamlessly flowed into each other, with Efechto’s beats and Givens’ talents as a hype man holding it all together. Ferrer is perhaps best known for her work as a featured vocalist with various Christian rappers, including Da T.R.U.T.H., This’l, and Andy Mineo. Acknowledging that fact, she performed a medley of those hooks as her closing song, though her solo work stands fairly well as its own entity. You can download her EP, Grave Clothes and Wedding Garments, from NoiseTrade. Humble Beast has a long standing relationship with NoiseTrade and their fair trade music system, making all of their music available for free. JGivens is no exception, providing his most recent album El v. Envy in exchange for an email as well. His consistent energy and humor kept things moving throughout the show, with his own set peppered with observations about audience members using their phones and crediting arm waving with cooling down the stage.
When JGivens welcomed him to the stage, Propaganda’s dreadlocks were gathered in a bun and he had on a camouflage sweatshirt emblazoned with the world “grateful”. After a few songs bouncing around, he shed the sweatshirt and the dreads got out of control, despite his occasional efforts to gather them during calmer moments of the set. Those calm moments were few and far between, as he shifted fluidly back and forth between spoken word and rap flows, DJ Efechto weaving together tracks from Prop’s solo debut Excellent, full-length collaboration with Odd Thomas Art Ambidextrous, and most recent release Crimson Cord together with J. Dilla instrumentals, clips of Arctic Monkeys tracks, and the feature from Lecrae’s Church Clothes tape, “Misconceptions”. Speaking of features, JGivens rejoined him for “How Did We Get Here”, a sing-along standout from Crimson Cord. By this point, crowd energy had reached a fever pitch and Propaganda took the opportunity for a stage dive, a rare occurrence at a Tuesday night bar show. A few brave souls near the front managed to turn it into a brief crowd surf before returning him to the stage to finish it out. The post-show discussions lasted long into the night, thought-provoking music bringing people together to discuss issues close to their hearts.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC